Thursday, 23 May 2019
Donald Boyce: Ordering Tears: Tears as Physician’s Anesthesia in Augustine’s Experience of Loss in Confessiones
‘The child of those tears shall never parish.’ While these words were once used to console Monica, the ambiguity of the genitive is appropriate since Augustine’s own tears are characteristic of his identity. We will begin by using De Musica, De doctrina christiana,and Book I of Confessionesto provide the interpretive framework for understanding the role of tears in Augustine – particularly as it relates to the deaths he recounts in Confessiones.We will first look at the death of an anonymous friend, then the death of three Christian brothers, before concluding with the death of Monica. Through these examples and the framework of the earlier works, we will show that ‘ordering tears’ can be interpreted in three ways: First, tears in the accusative as an attempt to restrain tears. Second, tears in the nominative as an attempt, in pride, to impose order on rational souls around us. In the last sense, tears take the ablative where the phrase takes the sense of ordering with tears and ordering bytears. Through this last movement and Augustine’s well-known Christological assertion of Christ as Physician we are able to synthesize certain passages where tears appear to be their ‘own end,’ but instead are the Physician’s anesthesia - a step in the process of our ordering. Tears on this account are the ‘food’ in the Neoplatonic example of the pain of an empty stomach. They are a gift in our bodies that the Surgeon uses to help fix our painful brokenness.